The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 22.0179  Monday, 1 August 2011

From:         Tom Bishop <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:         July 30, 2011 3:46:11 PM EDT
Subject:     s.d. Wanton

Alan Dessen <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

>When going through Massinger’s The City Madam (in advance of seeing the
>RSC production), I came across the stage direction that ends 2.3 in the on-line
>old spelling edition: “Exeunt wanton, Musick plaid before’em.” Cyrus Hoy, the
>editor of the 1964 Regents Renaissance Drama text, changes the punctuation
>to have the s.d. read: “Exeunt, wanton music played before ‘em” (3.2.99, p. 49).
>“Wanton-wantonly” appears twice in our stage direction database, but neither
>usage is linked to music. The key figure in this scene is Shave’em, a prostitute,
>who is leading off the apprentice Goldwire to wanton activity. I see at least
>three options: 1) the context would fit “wanton music” if there was such a
>thing; 2) “wanton” refers to Shave’em; or 3) the signal should be understood
>as “Exeunt wantonly . . . ,” a usage found in a s.d. from Act IV of Massinger’s
>The Roman Actor: “Courting Paris wantonly.” (Middleton’s Your Five Gallants
>also calls for “wanton action”).

I should think option #2 doesn't fit the grammar very well, given that Exeunt is plural.

"Wanton music" is found in musical texts of the period.

Morley's Plaine and easy introduction to practical music (1597; a composition guide) speaks of Madrigals and Canzonets as "that wanton and pleasing music".

And Dowland's 1610 Musical Banquet has a song text that uses it:  "In a groue most rich of shade, Where Birds wanton musicke made". Bird-music seems especially to have been held wanton (those naughty smale foules!).

In Greene's Tu Quoque (1614) a character says "would the Musicke were heere againe, I doe begin to be wanton" though this would fit either your #1 or #3.

Philemon Holland's translation of Plutarch's Moralia (1603) also refers to "a wanton and merry maske".

Closest of all perhaps is Marston's own Malcontent where my lady is imagined:

bound, incensed with wanton sweetes,
Her vaines fild hie with heating delicates,
Soft rest, sweete Musick, amorous Masquerers, lasciuious banquets….[etc]

I can't find example of "wanton" being using adverbially anywhere, though it's grammatically possible, or one could read it simply as an adjective, "Exeunt, [they being] wanton", I suppose. One would expect the music would want to match that mood in any case, and not be a doleful dump!


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